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Darren S. Achtzehn, who is employed by ARAMARK and serves as the director of Food Services at Seton Hill University, has been named the winner of the Real Food Award in the Food Service Director or Manager category. The award is sponsored by the Real Food Challenge.

The Real Food Awards shine a spotlight on the people who represent the best of college food. There are five categories of people who make real food a reality on campuses: students, faculty, food service managers, cafeteria ‘worker-leaders’ and food producers. The finalists have demonstrated dedication to excellence in college food whether through improving working conditions, obtaining real food in dining halls or growing sustainable and nourishing food on community farms. All of the candidates were chosen by students because they represent people who are truly making changes in the food culture on their campuses. The Real Food Awards are the only national recognition for excellence in food service voted on by the customers themselves.

Achtzehn, of Madison, Pa., is recognized for his leadership in the University’s sustainability efforts. His trayless dining initiative reduced waste by 6,152 pounds per semester. With the help of student, faculty, staff and Sisters of Charity volunteers, Achtzehn began a garden, which produced 1,390 pounds of fresh tomatoes and 900 pounds of fresh peppers for pizzas, salsa and salads in the dining hall. He composts all food waste for use as soil amendment in flower gardens on campus. In 2010, he introduced reusable to go boxes in dining halls.

“It means so much that a student is the one who recognized the work we do. We try so hard to make Seton Hill a home away from home for all our students,” said Achtzehn. “I was truly surprised to learn I was nominated and completely humbled when I found out I received the award. I cannot express enough appreciation to have the support of the entire Seton Hill community.”

“By the end of my first semester freshmen year, I discovered that Darren was not just Seton Hill's food service director. Rather, it seemed as if he was the keystone that held our school together. Darren has integrated sustainable practices into the dining hall while also expanding the food selection. His school spirit is evident in his support for all of the athletic teams, clubs, and organizations on campus,” said Nick Sterner, president, Seton Hill Government Association. “Darren values all of the great traditions at Seton Hill, especially Christmas on the Hill. He spends two weeks decorating the entire dining hall for a formal dinner for students to celebrate the holiday season. Whether you need a food request or a friend to offer advice, Darren is always there to help.”
“Darren Achtzehn, or ‘D-Man’ as he is lovingly referred to on campus, epitomizes what it is to be a Setonian. He is student-centered and responsive to the needs of a diverse campus. He is committed to building community at all levels - family, campus, his hometown of Madison,” said Charmaine Strong, Ph.D., dean of students. “He goes the extra mile to make Seton Hill a more welcoming, serving, learning and celebrating institution. Darren models respect, compassion, and giving back in a humble, simple way.”

Achtzehn has a 21 year career with Seton Hill University. During that time, he has traveled with University students to participate in Habitat for Humanity projects over Spring Break and Christmas Break, coordinated Midnight Breakfasts during finals week, provided cooking lessons for resident advisors and etiquette dinners for juniors and seniors, assisted clubs and organizations on campus with fundraisers and participated in countless student activities. In addition to his work at Seton Hill, Achtzehn is a fireman and emergency medical technician in Madison, Pa and loves coordinating the annual fish fry dinners during Lent. Achtzehn earned his Associate degree from Westmoreland County Community College.

The Real Food Challenge (RFC), an organization that aims to shift at least 20 percent, or $1 billion, of university food purchasing from conventional to “real” sources by 2020 through student led campaigns. RFC has successfully shifted $35 million to real food and is working to get university and college presidents to sign the Real Food Commitment. The Commitment ensures that schools will use their purchasing power to support a healthy, fair and green food system.